Sentencing in racially motivated attack postponed
April 3, 2002
The sentencing of a Snowmass Village man who pleaded guilty to assault charges stemming from a racially motivated fight last month has been postponed.
Adam Etchegoyen, 20, was scheduled to be sentenced on charges of second-degree and third-degree assault Monday in Pitkin County District Court. But Judge J.E. DeVilbiss postponed his decision when he learned that Etchegoyen had been involved in a second fight with another black man that same evening.
Etchegoyen and his older brother, Ryan, were arrested in December after starting two separate fights in one night – both of which, police say, were racially motivated.
After an evening of drinking at a downtown bar, the brothers began arguing with a black tourist. After Ryan allegedly punched the stranger and the fight broke up, the brothers walked to a bus stop where they got into in a second fight that left Aspen resident John Henry with a broken jaw.
The Etchegoyens, who are white, were arrested on charges of ethnic intimidation and assault for allegedly shouting racial slurs during the two unrelated fights. The scuffle with Henry – which police say began because Henry, who is black, has a white girlfriend – also resulted in a theft charge when the men allegedly stole Henry’s jacket after the assault.
A plea agreement allowed Adam Etchegoyen to plead guilty to lesser charges early last month, and the younger brother eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of assault. Ryan Etchegoyen, who has been charged with ethnic intimidation and third-degree assault, is expected to be in court for arraignment on April 15.
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Adam Etchegoyen’s sentencing hearing began with Assistant District Attorney Lawson Will’s recounting of the case, which allowed Henry to speak about his experience.
Henry read a statement detailing the expenses that resulted from the December assault. Unable to work at his construction job with his broken jaw wired shut, Henry said he was fired and forced to scramble for work to pay his mounting medical bills.
He also charged that the restitution in the case, which Etchegoyen must pay as a part of his plea agreement, is not nearly enough. Henry’s medical treatment continues, and he said he plans to meet with a surgeon to determine whether reconstructive surgery of his jaw is necessary.
Henry also spoke of the first assault victim, calling his broken jaw the result of the Etchegoyens’ first altercation of the evening. DeVilbiss expressed surprise upon hearing of the second fight.
“I didn’t hear before right now about the assault of another African-American man,” the judge said. “That might affect my decision [in the sentencing].”
DeVilbiss also urged Henry to add up his medical bills to give the district attorney’s office a better idea of what he lost as a result of the assault. Though Etchegoyen was prepared to pay $3,000 in restitution as a part of his sentencing, Henry told the court the amount wouldn’t cover his dental bills.
“Make sure the court knows what you claim are your medical losses,” DeVilbiss said shortly before the adjournment of Monday’s hearing.
Adam Etchegoyen’s sentencing has been postponed until April 29.